26th April – Onward to San Francisco

Once the party champions are crowned, I have to shift into high gear. I have just over an hour before my bus leaves, and I still have a few last minute decisions to make. First things first – phone charges while I shower and get out of the very sweaty clothes I’ve been running around in all day. I’m very sorry my new roommate is going to have to bear with a pair of very smelly socks in the laundry basket, but not much else I can do. Flat’s been cleaned, I check the mail, toss out the last of my milk, and I decide against some last minute additions and finally make a judgement call on a jacket – not taking one on the grounds that they’re all winter/ski jackets and if I do need one, it’s probably going to be better long term if I buy it there.

Finally, at 8:30 I’m out the door, giving one roommate a final farewell (at least 2 of them will be gone into new accommodation and quote possibly replaced by the time I’m back), and stumble my way down village run, belatedly remembering that I wanted to polish my boots before I left, but it’s too late now. Hopefully they’ll survive till I get back.

As it happens, the snow and slush are so low that I make good time, and wind up in Rexall buying a new pair of sunglasses (somehow managed to wreck the pair I bought in March already) and grabbing some travel sized toiletries. I was contemplating just buying tiny containers, but I’m almost out of shampoo anyway, and I like knowing I’m covered. I’m taking enough risk not bringing a towel all things considered.

The last bus out of Whistler is the Greyhound at 9pm. It’s clear why there aren’t more buses around this time – only two passengers get on here, and another two in Creekside. Plainly people don’t like travelling to Vancouver at night – but definitely beneficial for me, as I get to spread out over two seats. Greyhound might not havea great rep, but when it’s quiet it’s by far my favourite choice for trying to get some sleep. As it happens, I have a very comfortable 2 hours getting to my destination, although I’m not expecting to keep that up.

When I get to Vancouver, my knowledge of the city fails me when I blank on exactly what station I need to go to. I forgot that I didn’t come to Van via plane, and as such this is a new route for me. I mull over the problem for a few minutes, before deciding, screw-it-I-have-the-time and just riding Expo to Waterfront and hopping onto the right line from there.

Thanks to this, it takes about an hour for me to arrive at Vancouver’s airport, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find that unlike Toronto, the place isn’t teeming with other early arrivals. Within five minutes, I’ve even found four seats together – the holy grail of the sleeping-in-transit-traveller. Space to stretch out without resorting to the floor.

Unfortunately, they are still airport seats, which were designed for anything but comfort, so sleep eludes me. The best I can achieve is a sort of deep dozing, although my paranoia at sleeping while my bags sit next to me probably didn’t help. It also starts getting cold, and my choice not to bring a jacket suddenly seems very stupid.

In the end, I have to get up and walk twice, maybe getting 2 hours of semi-sleep in between. The rest of the time I’m stretching my legs, eating food I don’t really want and playing Pokemon Go, before heading back to my check in office for 3am so I can start checking in for my 6am flight.

Now, I’ve done enough flying by this point to understand the frustation at the time expectations involved in flying. Two hours for domestic and three for International – even though you know full well you’re just going to be wandering around the airport for an hour and a half, you still give yourself the time just in case. I finally figured out why – American airline companies.

Alaska Air’s check in desk didn’t even open until 3:30! When it did, I was one of the first to get checked in, which took an age due to slow computers that were causing problems, only to be sent to another line – there were several planes flying internationally at six, but baggage check didn’t open till 4. When we finally got through that minefield? Its time for 20 questions at an electronic booth before, you guessed it, another line. American Border Control/Customs wasn’t open until 4:30. And they were having just as many issues as the airline had with the computers – they weren’t reading something properly and were being super slow. Despite – again – being one of the first in line, I didn’t manage to escape and find my gate until 5:10, with less than 20 minutes before my flight boarded. I couldn’t believe the impracticality of it.

On the plus side, my flight not only left on time, but ended up landing early – we were in the air for less than 30 minutes before touching down in Seattle, leaving me with over 3 hours to prepare for my connection.

Good thing too, because I needed it. Seattle Airport is CHAOS. I have to do an entire loop of the terminal before figuring out I had to go down a set of hidden escalators (lots of construction going on), get on a train, and follow the signs for baggage claim. Once there, I just had to keep going right, and eventually made my way to the next departure gate.

(And yes, I’m aware I probably could have just stayed in the departure area given that I’d checked in electronically, but I was so turned around I figured I’d just go with what I definitely knew would work).

For the Seattle to San Francisco leg, I’m flying with Delta Airlines at 9:50, and they allow you to use an electronic boarding card (unlike Alaska who insisted on paper copies), so I could walk through with my passport and phone. I’m even doing this trip with just my large Jansport backpack, so it’s all carry on – no delays at bag drop or pick up.

The biggest problem however, is my sleep deprivation. This flight was meant to happen after 3 days in Seattle and with a good nights sleep – not four hours of semi-sleep after being awake since 8am the previous day. I can barely keep my eyes open while I wait for the flight.

Once we get on board, we get some more bad news. San Fran has requested more time between flights due to a backlog, and our flight gets pushed back 10 minutes. Which turns to 40, and means we’re all climbing the walls even before the 2 hour flight starts. Granted, the pilot does his best to cut the time down, and we only land 15 minutes later than planned, but it was still a very long trip with my head in it’s current state.

I’m staying at a place called ‘The Green Tortoise Hostel’ which isn’t far from the bay, but is far from the airport. They have an arrangement with the Airport Express SF shared van which gets you door to door service for $16. My phone obviously isn’t working since I crossed the border and refuse to pay Fido’s daylight robbery roaming charges, so I have to go down to the baggage claim and find the shuttle bus desk, which has phones with direct dials to the right buses. As luck would have it, there’s a bus coming in a matter of minutes, and I find myself wedged into the back of a van as we set off towards my first stop on the East Coast hop.

The most obvious thing you notice on your way to San Fran, is that it’s not all on the giant hills everyone sees in the media. On the outskirts, most of the ground is flat, oblivious to the rep or the freeway we’re zooming down. In fact, it’s nearly half an hour before the San Fran I recognised as San Fran started to take shape, and we all got an impromptu tour of the streets on Central San Francisco.

The streets feel very tight, thanks to the height of the buildings and the angle of the walls. Part of me can’t believe they built on the hills rather than levelling the place, because it’s a very strange thing to see. The streets themselves also feel wrong to me, because the ratio of restaurants/takeaway to shops and generally things I recognise seem way off.

The Green Tortoise is on Broadway Street, not too far from Chinatown and the harbour. San Francisco is so expensive, that most hostels are in slightly grungy parts of town, and this one has a few ‘adult’ bars in view from the windows, but otherwise looks pretty good. The hostel itself feels old fashioned, but I have a feeling that it was a conscious choice so isn’t a con. The biggest issue for me is getting the key to work – the lock on the door is an absolute nightmare – everyone in the room needs a few minutes to figure out how to get back in.

I only have 2 1/2 days in San Francisco, so I need to get busy, but between not wanting to look at my computer for head issues and the sheer anguish of travel, I’m both unprepared and tired. I immediately learn that Alcatraz is often booked solid, so going tomorrow might not be as possible as I’d hoped.

There’s probably pleny I could be doing in the city, especially giving my much-shorter-than-I-realised itinerary, but the downside of my migration from Canada means I’m both tired and exhausted. Rather than plan anything (especially since I’ve just missed most walking tours by 5 minutes), I pick a direction and just go wandering.

The first thing I notice is just how cramped the city feels. Between the steep hills and the height of the buildings, the city feels smaller than it is, burying you in its presence. It’s also very easy to lose your way given that it uses the same grid system North America seems to love for its cities.

I was hoping to find Union Square, the hub of San Francisco, but my attempts were best described as laughable. Mostly through luck, I stumble across the Embarcadero, which is also hosting a small market today. One gentleman was selling these amazing pendants made from sawing out American quarters, but I had to resist purchasing.

Thankfully, I had an easy direction to wander in – the Farmers Market inside the Port building. I was so hungry by this point, and hadn’t been able to find anywhere that wasn’t really fancy or Subway. This wasn’t exactly a cheaper option, the stands were all shop/take-out style, but at least I didn’t feel out of place walking in.

I ended up grabbing fish and chips from a fish stand, mostly because I haven’t had good battered fish since arriving in Whistler. It’s just not something that they do in Canada – and boy was this worth the $15. Batter was light, and fish literally fell apart in my hands. Fries were so so, I spend a little extra to get garlic fries, which were nice, but honestly too much after half a portion.

Now fed, I figured I’d wander back via the pier, and check out Alcatraz Landing to see if I could grab tickets. It’s less than 10 minutes away, and the pier is full of attractions and sights to keep you occupied.

Unfortunately, I got some bad new when I made it to Alcatraz Landing – there’s a sign up saying the next tours aren’t available until Sunday. I do however learn, that they sell 50-100 extra tickets for the first boat on the day, but people start lining up at 5am (ticket office opens at 7:30) to get tickets.

Fisherman’s Wharf is just a small distance away, but honestly by this point my body is crashing hard, so I decide to had back to the hostel and make plans for the next couple of days. There is a group Indian meal happening tonight, but I’m so full from lunch I decide to skip it, and instead have an early night to guarantee I’ll make it to Alcatraz tomorrow.

Advertisements
Posted in America, Diary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

25th April – Final Staff Party

So, my original plan was to leave for Seattle on the 23rd and enjoy a few days in the nearby US town before heading down the East Coast. However, not long after I booked everything in, I got the announcement that the staff party would be on the 25th. Since it was an all day event, and sounded a hoot, I really didn’t want to miss it. I had to wrack my brains for a while to figure out how I’d swing it since I had a flight booked in the morning of the 26th for San Francisco. For a while I thought I’d have to eat the flight and fly from Vancouver, only to realise Van-Sea is a very popular route, and managed to get a connecting flight with Alaska Airlines for half what it would have been for a Van-SanFran flight. It did mean leaving Whistler at 9pm and sleeping at the airport, but needs must.

Rendezvous really like to go all out for their end of Winter season staff party. It’s not just one event, but a whole day of team exercises, starting with a ski session on the mountain. There’s no pressure to attend all of them, but just to come to whatever events interest you. After my successful trip up on Monday, I decide I’m going to attend all 3, and hang out at the Excalibur Gondola to meet up with everyone at 10am to head up Excalibur and Jersey Cream.

There’s two events happening on the mountain in the morning. The first would be a race down Buzz Cut – the fastest 10 would get points for their team, and the next half was a scavenger hunt. There were five cryptic clues alluding to different runs, and we had to get a photo of at least one member of our team in front of the ski run sign. Now I’m not a fast skier at the best of times, but one look at Buzz Cut and I happily step down from attempting. It’s very icy, and the last third is invisible thanks to a steep hill, so like quite a few people, we wanted to take out time. Unlike the very enthusiastic snowboarders, who sped down this thing in a straight line as if the devil himself was chasing them. Our team already had an immediate advantage thanks to having Damon in our team, who has proven multiple times to have no concept of fear. Or braking. Although he was hardly the only one to go crashing into the ground in a spectacular fashion by the bottom.

I took my lazy time getting down the mountain, which halfway down was most definitely the right choice considering how shaky my skis are. My contribution to the team would be the hunt part – and figuring out the five clues:

1. Elvis’s favourite

2. Giant Black Hole

3. Rolling Papers

4. Drowning in Whiskey

5. Army Haircut

Number five was clearly Buzz Cut, but we’d figured that out pretty early and grabbed a photo before the race started with the whole team.

Number one was Rock and Roll, and we decided number four was probably Straight Shot (turns out is was In the Spirit). Three was Zig Zag, and after some Googling, number 2 was clearly Quasar. Since Quasar was up in the Glacier, Damon and Olly were sent off to grab it, while Dave, Jos and Billy headed up to Crystal for one and four. Since the last time I went up that way, I gave myself a concussion, I grabbed the photo of Zig Zag with help from Dave, and decided to head down towards the meeting area.

Any lingering doubts I had about breaking off immediately die when I hit the final hill of Zig Zag. On Monday this run was chaos, but doable. By today, everything is either slush or compacted, and despite being the snow equivilant of silk most of the way, the final hill is compacted, icy, and very bumpy. As an added bonus, it starts just as the tree shade comes into play, so the second I hit it, my goggles made me blind. By the time I recovered, I’d lost a lost of speed, and couldn’t get to the safer area, so fell in a starfish when I lost the ability to control them. A passing skier helped me get to my feet, and I had to skid my way down to the slush snow. There’s no way crystal wouldn’t have just been more of this – definitely dodged a bullet.

The mess on Zig Zag ends up holding me up so much that I don’t get down the mountain until 12:08, which is later than planned. We’re all having lunch at Merlins’s Grill in Upper Village at 12:30, so have just enough time to get changed and walk down to meet the non-skiers. As it happens, I’m not the only one having trouble getting down, because most of the skiers don’t show up until 1.

Lunch is sandwiches or wraps made from what I think was mostly leftovers from Rendezvous and Christines. Beef, turkey, lettuce, corn salsa, feta, American cheese, sauces and some veg, as well as chip packets and potato salad. Everyone ended up being hungry enough to finish up most of what was out before the last skiers arrived, and then we got the list of challenges for the day.

We had from 1:30 to 5:30, and rather than a scavenger hunt, it was a series of tasks of varying difficulty that we had to perform, and take photos as evidence.

1. At least one member of your team naked

2. Member of your team dressed like a mannequin and standing next to it

3. Member of team riding the biggest vehicle you can find

4. Spell out an offensive word using your teammates bodies

5. A photo of a team member wearing a name badge from a non-WB business that is also their name.

6. Make a music video by remixing a song with lyrics that relate to your time at Rendezvous.

You get a point for each challenge, and two additional points for originality and creativity. Thankfully, we have a lot of enthusiastic members, and next thing I know, everyone in the team is getting naked behind a snowbank. I’m definitely not getting involved, so I happily volunteered to take the photo to get out of it. A few skies suffered for the sake of taste, but we had number one in the bag.

Next up was the offensive word. Everyone wanted to go big, so we spent about ten minutes trying to figure out the longest word that could be spelled with our numbers, and settled on ‘Asshole.’ Took more than a little organising to get everyone in position, and I’m not sure it was that recognisable, but everyone liked it so we moved on.

Now, I have a name badge from IGA, but in order to get it, I’d need to go up to Staff to get my key, and then go all the way to IGA, so we choose that as a last resort. We have a few common names in the group, so finding name tags while we hunt for mannequins shouldn’t be difficult. As it happens, we find a Dave in Roots, so we get a shot, and then head to Gap…once everyone has a liquor store break since two members had a lucky escape with a no-open-alcohol-can enforcement officers and had their booze confiscated.

Two of our teammates are former Gap employees, so they were able to talk the staff into letting us pose with the mannequins so long as we cleaned up afterwards. The four male team members that were still with us immediately started looking for the dresses and shirts on display, and I grabbed the sportswear on the side since it was the most bland outfit (and we were out of boys to crossdress). Apparently some of the guys quite like the fit of some of the jeans, which was hilariously ironic. Star of the show though was Troy, who looked fantastic in his crop top/denim jacket work out combo in the background, even if the other three were still pretty spectacular.

We’re still looking for a large vehicle (really wanted a fire truck but no luck) but figure we can do a bus if nothing else shows up. However, that slips to the back of our mind, because Dave suddenly notices he got a text about ten minutes ago about an additional challenge, and we have to get to Regiliati park – and just got a five minute warning.

We try our best, but between the delay of not noticing, and the hesitancy to move thanks to a teammate vanishing, we make it there a minute late. Not that would have helped, because we had the minutes to get there AND do the challenge, which was basically doing five steps along a bungee cord style tightrope. We still tried, but no luck, and moved on as the next team showed up.

Lack of tightrope walking points aside, we were doing pretty well, and decided we’d do the music video on Blackcomb, after taking photos in the free shuttle bus that takes us to Blackcomb suites as our largest vehicle. I spent the trip frantically trying to scribble down the lyrics we’d been hashing out all day, and figured we’d gotten something…singable.

We’d chosen Backstreet Boy’s ‘I Want it That Way’ for whatever reason, and we’d agreed to do two verses and a chorus. Ideally we’d do it in one take, but by this point certain people were hilariously drunk, and Jos figured it would only take 15 minutes to edit, so we decided to do it in multiple clips. The lyrics, for those curious, were:

The zoo, is open

The hoards, are coming

We’re so, hungover

At least we’re not Roundhouse

Would you, like some guac?

Or some edamame?

It’s just, another $2.50

If you want gravy!

SHRED WITH ME!

Uploading Wizard

SHRED WITH ME!

Uploading Solar

SHRED WITH ME!

Popping Molly in the changing room

At least we’re not Roundhouse.

We figured we’d do each verse in one take, but some of the guys were so far beyond remembering one line, let alone four, that rather than the quick 10 minutes it should have taken, we were out for 40 minutes and heading back to Glacier with 30 minutes left to edit. Should have been doable, except Jos’s computer decided to act all familial to mine and crashed. Repeatedly. We ended up having to get another team member’s german Macbook up to try and format, but he didn’t want to edit and Jos had given up, so I had a crack at it. Nothing facing, literally just splicing 3 clips together, but at least it was a finished video – and only 20 minutes late too!

We weren’t the only team late though, and only one of two who had made the video, so we were pretty happy with our chances. The meal was hotdogs with more leftover dressings, and at 7, we finally got round to seeing everyone’s work.

Credit where credit was due, the naked photos were very daring. Two statues having a very good time and one secret run in a gondola. We still had the best mannequin photos though. Disaster did strike when we realised the sound hadn’t processed properly on our video, but three of us just hollered the lyrics to compensate, and it tipped us over to win!

The prize however, was a Wii U – not something we could share. So in order to select who would win it, we all had to tie 3 balloons to our feet and trying and stamp the other’s out. Whoever still had a balloon at the end will win. Gave it a valiant effot, but think Candace managed to strike my last balloon and take me out after a few minutes. Eventually, it was Jos who stood victorious, Wii in hand.

All things considered, it was a great way to end the season. Said my goodbyes as I had to rush off to get ready for my travel adventures again, but no regrets about skipping Seattle to make this.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Uncategorized, Whistler | Tagged | Leave a comment

21st November – Training Day

It’s almost time.  Soon Blackcomb will be open, and the chaos of winter and holiday season will be upon us.  This means unlike the summer, we’re training people before opening.

When we head up the mountain, Maddy, Eli and I all get a surprise at opening.  We’ll be the ones training the stations entirely – I’d been assuming I’d be assisting rather than supervising entirely, but at least I’ve been assigned Mexican rather than the other stations.

I have about five new people, all of whom know each other from the bus trip here, and I’m scrambling to get ready.  I know I need to show them how to do salsa, but otherwise I’m a little lost.  Waide ends up showing me red folder which holds the recipes…and turns out this has a utensil list, which I have never seen before and dearly wish I’d know about in the summer!

So the first day of training is a little scrambled, with me showing the new girls how to make both the corn and tomato salsas, while Waide and the other supervisors take over soup since I have no clue how to work that.

All things consider, it goes pretty well.  I have a girl with actual restaurant experience on my team, and the rest of them are good at picking things up, so by the end of the day, I’m pretty sure they’ll handle tomorrow well.  We’ll be doing a soft open for employees only, and I’m confident.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Whistler | Leave a comment

20th November – Board Day

Yesterday I got my board waxed, and today I headed to the bottom of Whistler Mountain for my first snowboard lesson.  I’m in a large staff group, and our teacher is an older gentleman.  He’s nice enough, but very into yoga and the spiritual aspects of snowboarding, and it’s a bit much for me to take.

We start on the bottom of the hill so we can learn how to move the board without removing it entirely, which is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever had to do.  It’s such an awkward position, you’re foot is begging to turn around, and you’re struggling with the balance the whole time.  No clue how I’ll ever master this.

Once everyone at least has the theory down, we head up the chairlift to the training area, and I get my first attempt at running the tube tunnel to the shorter training area.  There’s more powder here, and less people, so it’s a good place to work on the basics.

I was hoping my experience in wakeboarding would give me some advantage, but as it turns out, it’s more of a hindrance.  For snowboarding, most of your weight needs to be on your front foot, whereas with wakeboarding and martial arts, most of the weight stays on the back.  The only times that are similar are when you’re turning, then your weight gets thrown back on your heels…unless you’re doing a toe turn, which I cannot wrap my head around just yet.

Eventually we head up to the main training area, which is a lot more compacted.  For all people warn about powder snow, the compacted is a lot more dangerous – you can go faster, and if you come onto it after powder, it’ll catch you off guard.  More people get injured on the ‘safe’ slopes than you’d think because of it.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Whistler | Tagged | Leave a comment

18th November – Look Before You Leap

I want to get out and try to practice skiing, but the queue for the gondola is still long due to the locals, so I head out around 10am for the bunny slopes.

At first, everyone goes really well.  I’m turning and speeding down the hill without any real effort.  After an hour, most of the slope is getting taken over by students, and one of the staff on the magic carpet tells me I should maybe try one of the green runs at the top of Whistler.  I’m feeling super confident, so decide to give the Upper Whisky Jack a shot.

My first warning was when I got to the top of Whistler and find a vicious wind beating everything down.  I don’t have goggles (the bunny slope doesn’t really need them), and the snow is super hard because of it, but I press on.

It takes me about 2 minutes to realise just how big a mistake I’ve made.  There’s two awful crashes, one that takes my poles halfway down the slope, and another that literally rips my gloves from my hands and needs someone to help me up.  It does not take me long to weigh up my options, and make the humiliating walk up the tiny amount of run I’ve made to flee back to the bunny slopes.

My confidence is completely shot to ribbons.  Think I’ll need another lesson before I want to try my luck again.  Course I’m also planning a snowboarding lesson beforehand, so that might not help.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

17th November – Happy Opening Day

Let it begin!

We’ve had a strange kind of weather in the last few weeks, but the main point is we have snow, and Whistler has been opened a week early.  Not all the lifts are running, and Blackcomb will be opening on schedule, but the locals are coming out in full force.  I have to go to the post office early, and I manage to gape at the line that goes all the way to the Grocery Store in the middle village.

I also see the lesson tents setting up, and decide to try my luck.  I know we get free lessons, but nobody is certain when they begin.  As it turns out, neither do the instructors, but I’m told if I show up in 15 minutes, I can join the day lesson.  There’s no way I can get ready in that time (it’ll take me that long just to get up staff hill again), but if I show up at 12:30, I can join the half day lesson, which I do.

I end up in a group with just two other people, one of which joins later.  My Instructor is a man named Dick, who starts us with basics like getting the stupid things on, and learning how to turn and pull yourself along with your poles, before letting us try a very small hill/ramp to see how we control.  I’ve had approximately 2 lessons over 15 years ago, but more of it comes back to me than you’d think, so I quickly outpace the others, and Dick leaves the other students with the other teacher to give me some one on one teaching.

We have to head up the bunny hill, which is at Olympic Station, the best place for learners in Whistler.  Rather than a chairlift, there is a magic carpet, which is basically a rolling floor upwards.  Takes several minutes to get to the top, and it stops regularly, but it gets you to a decent height with a hill to work with – you just have to watch from above since other, more advanced trails finish on the learners hill.

All things considered, I was picking things up very well.  After 3 hours, I was linking my turns and controlling my speed with a lot of ease.  Dick figures that with some more practice and another lesson and I’ll be able to handle the green routes.  Planning to head out tomorrow while I still have free time to try my luck.  Here’s hoping my snowboarding adventures are just as successful.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Whistler | Tagged | Leave a comment

24th October – Train Wreck Hike

Last week, I delayed myself to a point that I did absolutely nothing with my time off, and the one day I tried, ended up bucketing down with rain.  This week I was determined to change that – there’s no guarantee the weather will stay nice considering the snowfall we had earlier, so I need to get through the last of the hikes while I have the chance.  This morning, I’m out of the house by 9, in Cheakamus Crossing by 9:30, and begin the Train Wreck Hike.

This is one of the newest hikes in Whistler, and it has some history.  The train wreck has been a must-see attraction in Whistler almost since the crash, but up until last year, getting to it was ‘technically’ illegal, because you could only get to it by crossing the train tracks since it was blocked in by a river, and the railway.  When it became clear that stopping people from visiting, the council figured out a solution – create an easy hike from Cheakamus Crossing, with a brand new suspension bridge over Cheakamus River, which makes it possible to visit without breaking the law.

P1120321

The wreck consists of several rail cars that crashed over forty years ago when a train sped through an area undergoing repairs.  For some it poses a mystery, given that the cars are over 150 yards away from the railway line, yet didn’t damage a single one of the trees around them.  In reality – the train crashed and blocked the railway line, and loggers were brought in with their equipment, who dragged the cars into the forest to leave them to the elements.  There was a joke when they first crashed that they were a cheap option for staying in Whistler, but now they’re mostly known for the graffiti art covering them head to toe.  There’s also a bike park, with railings and landings for more experienced bikers (although when I visited, most of it looked decrepit).

P1120384

I’m here so early, that I have the entire area to myself, and it’s immediately obvious why so many people were drawn here.  The contrast between the cars and the forest is urban fantasy at its best.  You can still see the dents and buckling from the crash behind the paint, but the outsides are still in great condition – some of them you can climb up the ladders and clamber onto the roofs…then you step inside the car and see the rotting wooden boards.  When I summoned the courage to go in, I swear I was hearing voices and had to bolt out.  Most likely it was just the wood creaking, but still had me shivering.

P1120351

Most of the cars are collected in the same area near the river, but if you head South, you’ll find two in really bad condition – probably the main casualties in the crash, hoarding together not too far from the river rapids.  I can hear them long before I see them, and getting there requires some risky navigation (learning the hard way the boots I bought for winter are not great for hiking in the wet), but it must be a popular place to visit, cause there’s even a bench here.  Sadly, you can’t really see the rapids properly, due to the location of the rocks – this combined with my height issues and my non-confidence in my shoes mean I don’t want to get too close to the edge.  There are no safety barriers here.

It hasn’t taken nearly as long to get here as I expected, and I know there are more walks and hikes around here – and I can sort of see one winding through the forest against the river, so decide to check it out.  What I get is a quiet and calm hour just wandering around the forest, while the weather decides to become even better than I expected.  Even my jacket ends up in my bag as I start sweating.

P1120362

However, I do find myself having to walk over the train tracks to keep walking, and suddenly make it to the highway.  Not my plan at all.  However, there’s a different trail that will head back towards the train wreck, called ‘runaway train’ – so I head along that.  It’s a lot more gruelling than my wandering so far, because most of what I was walking on felt more like a country road, while this is less a path and more ‘where a bunch of other people have walked through recently.’  It still takes a good hour and a half to make my way back though, especially since a lot of this route is uphill for me.  So, when I make it back to the train cars, there’s a lot more people wandering around, and I figure I have two choices.  Head back to Cheakamus and explore the area…or head along the ‘old’ route to the rail cars and go visit Function Junction since I’m near the area.  Decide trekking the old route is my best option…mainly because I’d been told it wasn’t that far.

This was clearly blatant lies.  I was figuring it was a half hour walk – but twenty minutes later it’s clear I’m not even halfway there.  However, I have stumbled across Cheakamus Falls, which are stunning.

P1120388

My biggest frustration is I CAN’T get closer, because my shoes just cannot get grip and I’m not trusting them on the ledges.  It’s a quiet beauty compared to the brashness of the cars.

As I keep going further along, the path becomes awkward to track – I’m dependent on blue ribbon hanging from trees to keep me on track, right up until I find the river cutting my trek off.  I have to emerge from the forest and walk along the train track in order to get to the other side.  Along the way I run into some girls who are walking along the track rather than the forest, and give me some directions.  Thankfully I spot some blue tags in the forest and descend once again.  About 20 minutes later (and some stunningly beautiful river spots), the path intentionally moves towards the railway line, even with arrows spray painted on rocks.  When I get out, there’s even spray paint on the tracks – clearly previous hikers have made sure people know how to get where they go – and head across.

P1120395

Ten minutes later sees me wandering under the highway bridge, and a much easier walk.  Soon enough, I’m finally spotting Function Junction, and hit up the Re-Use-It Centre before I head home.  Was planning to find something for Halloween…but instead I find a slow cooker.  I’ve been after one of these for weeks, so it’s in my basket even as I leave the costume rack empty handed.  Also grab another pot since we could really use one, and medium sized pots with lids are gold dust in Whistler.

Tomorrow I’m back to work, but at least I’ve done something with my time off today.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Whistler | Tagged , , | Leave a comment